Emirates Stadium is the venue as Arsenal and Nottingham Forest go head-to-head in their opening 2023/24 Premier League encounter on Saturday.
Fresh off splashing out around £200 million on the arrivals of Declan Rice, Jurrien Timber and Kai Havertz, the Gunners kicked things off in the new season with a Community Shield win over Manchester City last week.
Despite relinquishing a double-figure lead to finish runners-up last season, Mikel Arteta’s men come into the new season with high expectations, looking to end a two-decade Premier League title drought.
If a penalty shoot-out triumph over Pep Guardiola’s treble winners was anything to go by, the Arsenal supporters have every reason to dream big this year. But the competition is fiercer than ever.
Unlike their hosts, Forest won’t dare to exaggerate their expectations after defying the odds to secure top-flight survival in their first top-flight campaign in 23 years last term.
Considered one of the likeliest candidates to suffer relegation this year, the visitors will have a chance to prove their doubters wrong on the opening matchday.
Rice’s record-breaking arrival from West Ham United perhaps best illustrates Arsenal’s lofty ambitions ahead of the new season. But it also heightens the pressure on Arteta to deliver from the get-go.
Arsenal dropped the curtain on the previous Premier League campaign with an emphatic 5-0 romping of Wolverhampton Wanderers at home, ending a run of back-to-back league defeats ‘to nil.’
The Gunners can draw confidence from their historically strong home starts, having only lost six of their 21 day-one matches on home turf in the Premier League era (W11, D3).
One of those 11 triumphs was a 2-1 victory over Forest in 1998, while Arsenal demolished them 5-0 in this corresponding fixture last season.
Forest avenged their thumping defeat in London with an unexpected 2-1 home triumph in May, spelling the end of Arsenal’s fading hopes of halting Man City’s domestic dominance.
Cooper’s side finished last season on a high, racking up an impressive five-game unbeaten league start down the final stretch (W3, D2) to go four points clear of 18th-placed Leicester City.
Despite avoiding relegation, the Tricky Trees were the division’s worst travellers in 2022/23, signing off as one of only two clubs to have failed to hit double-digits in terms of away points (eight).
In addition to only managing one win on 19 Premier League road trips in their comeback campaign (D5, L13), Forest netted a league-low average of 0.57 goals per away game.
Arteta cannot call upon Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus, but he won’t lose any sleep over the injuries of Mohamed Elneny and Albert Sambi Lokonga.
Jorginho’s availability for this curtain-raising fixture is still questionable after he picked up a minor muscle injury during the final stages of Arsenal’s pre-season.
On the other hand, Forest will take this trip without experienced goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, defensive cornerstone Moussa Niakhate and Omar Richards.
Cooper has another massive concern on his plate as last season’s hero, Taiwo Awoniyi, could miss out on the opening matchday due to an ankle problem.
Arsenal potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhaes, Jurrien Timber; Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey, Declan Rice; Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Martinelli.
Nottingham Forest potential starting line-up:
(3-5-2): Matt Turner; Joe Worrall, Willy Boly, Scott McKenna; Serge Aurier, Ryan Yates, Danilo, Orel Mangala, Ola Aina; Morgan Gibbs-White, Brennan Johnson.
We Say: Arsenal 3-0 Nottingham Forest
It’s only the beginning of the season, and surprises are possible, but it’s hard to imagine Arsenal dropping points in this clash.
Only two sides took home all three points from the Emirates last season, and considering Forest’s travel sickness, it’s more likely the Gunners’ title hopes will be off to a flying start.
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